Spotted by students: London’s star-studded celebs
Imagine seeing Jon Snow on your way to Greggs before a lecture
One of the greatest unspoken benefits of going to a London uni is being able to say that you’ve spotted celebrities, and everyone knows it. If you so wished, you could take a bucket list of names around with you, haunt Hampstead and the other upper-class mansion dwellings, and tick off every British star in the radius. You’d probably get a lot of people on your list.
Not everyone is a celebrity-sighting fanatic though. For some of us, the simple pleasure of seeing one of our idols from 2014 walking down the street carrying milk is enough to get us feeling like an extra in their movie. It’s a uniquely London thing that you will be telling your boring office-job colleagues about for 30 years after you’ve left uni, never letting go of the thrilling life you used to live.
Bloomsbury, where a lot of London uni campuses lie, has also been a famously bohemian area for the arts in London’s star-studded history, so you’re guaranteed to have spotted at least one cheeky cameo during your time as an undergrad. Whether it’s here or roaming the streets of Zone two, far away from the overpriced uni accommodations we call home, here are some of the celebrities you might see around London Town:
You may or may not have heard, but the Game of Thrones actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright joined UCL as a fresher in 2019, and we literally haven’t heard anything from him since. He’s a quiet guy, we can all respect that, but in dark Covid times, we all need some gossip about the Three Eyed Raven going on a bender in halls.
Well, we don’t have news of Bran Stark dressed as a schoolgirl with the rugby lads at Loop, but we have the next best thing: this mediocre toilet sighting in the Student Centre.
“Last year I was going to the loo in the Student Centre and I didn’t realise that even though the doors were shut they were all free, so I waited for the guy in front of me to go and then went in after him – as he was walking out I realised it was Bran Stark from Game of Thrones and freaked. Can’t believe we shared a toilet seat, it was pretty romantic.”
I’m not quite sure what it is about this man, but he seems to crop up everywhere. He haunts our 2012 BGT dreams, and yet still manages to fill conversations with rumours about his private life – mysterious yet a British icon, some say there’s no escaping Walliams.
My flatmates and I know this first hand, being David’s neighbours – yes we’re on first name basis, we haven’t spoken a word to each other but there’s something so intimate about being able to see into each other’s windows.
“In first year, David Walliams was filming around the corner from Astor College so we all spotted him then, but this year we figured out that the flat we’ve moved in to is opposite to his house, so we look in to each other’s gardens. It’s pretty weird having David Walliams as a neighbour and we’ve sent him paper aeroplanes when we’re drunk, but apart from that have been too scared to make any contact or invite his family round for friendly-neighbour dinners.”
Kathy Kiera Clarke
You may not know this woman by name, but you’ll know her by her iconic contribution to the TV show Derry Girls. She’s Aunt Sarah, AKA the best character, who is from Northern Ireland but lives in the Regents Park area.
Unlike other celebs, she lives life a bit more under the radar and therefore can enjoy the simple pleasures of London life – while you are unlikely to see her roaming the streets of Bloomsbury, her stomping ground is the eclectic Camden area, which actually suits her character a lot.
“I work in a Camden pub and one time Kathy Kiera Clarke walked in with her friend and I served them for hours. Just like Aunt Sarah she smokes a lot and has the exact same high-pitched accent as she does in the show (it was iconic), and she’s actually super nice! She tipped me personally as she left.”
Another British icon, Ricky Gervais is loved purely for the show After Life and his incredible Golden Globes speech last year. He is also a well-known Hampstead Heath dweller, seeming to join the host of comedians and actors around the area.
If you met Mr Gervais out and about in real life he would most likely tell you to fuck off without a second glance, so while many a London student has spotted him, no one’s ever heard of anyone who’s actually spoken to him. It’s exactly this persona that we love so much about this man, so I’m not complaining.
“I was at Sainsbury’s near Hampstead shopping for some fruit, and I looked up and spotted Ricky Gervais right next to me. He was wearing a mask, but I’m 99 per cent sure it was him because he gave me a look which said “don’t fucking say anything” after he caught me staring for a good few seconds – awkward! I hope he enjoyed his strawberries at least.”
What an actor this man is. Best known for his roles in Game of Thrones, Outlander and The Crown, I think it’s safe to say that half of the British population want to mother him and the other half want to marry him.
Very topically, he portrayed Prince Philip and did a cracking job at it. The Crown may have aged him to play the role but I assure you, if middle-aged men are your MCM then look no further. If you happen to see him on the street, he’ll probably stutter a bit in his endearingly awkward actor manner and then invite you to tea or something.
“My friend and I were crossing a busy road linking arms and in the middle of the road, I stopped suddenly. I didn’t mind getting hit by a car if it meant I could witness The Crown and Outlander legend Tobias Menzies crossing the road in the opposite direction. He looked like a man with a plan, in a fancy coat, collar turned up, that said ‘please don’t have a frantic, mid-road fan conversation with me’, so considerately, we ran away giggling.”
Speaking of Game of Thrones daddies, here’s a third alumnus to add to the list. The dashing Kit Harington, better known as Jon Snow, is not known to frequent the city very often, but his presence is a blessing when he does resurface.
Him and Rose Leslie, AKA Ygritte (my favourite power couple of the series), have recently had a baby too, which is super wholesome. I hope they’ve named him some weird GoT name and I hope he grows up to perfectly execute “You know nothing Jon Snow” in a Northern accent. In the mean time, you can daydream about stumbling across Kit Harington in the street and instantly falling in love.
“Hurrying along Grey’s Inn Road, late to some uni commitment when we actually went into campus, I spotted Kit Harington. He was also speed walking and looking both sheepish and shifty, maybe doing some method acting training, with coat turned up and hat pulled down, probably in a bid not to be recognised.”
The lead singer of The 1975 famously references some of his London haunts in his music, and also famously blends into the crowd pretty easily on account of his dress sense and “moany Londoner” facial expressions.
Matty Healy provided the soundtrack to many of our confusing adolescences, all sprinkled with a splash of depression and is now absolutely carrying our generation into adulthood in the most iconic way possible. He’s such a controversial icon that I’d actually be terrified to see him in real life; he could trample over me and I’d still apologise for being within a mile of his radius.
“I was visiting my childhood park in Kilburn once and spotted (what looked like) a homeless guy walking towards us, with a hood up and scraggly baggy clothes that looked like rags. I recognised the hair and kept staring because I had a feeling I knew who it was and that he would definitely be dressed like that, and just as he passed us he looked up at me as if to say ‘Yep, it’s me, fuck off,’ and I instantly recognised Matty Healy, lead singer of The 1975.”
Matt Smith and Keir Starmer
An interesting assortment of celebs, I know, but I actually think these two could take over the world. Matt Smith, AKA Doctor Who, could bring his time-travelling skills and overall awkward British demeanour, and Keir Starmer, AKA Labour leader, could finally eat the rich and create a Socialist empire.
London’s independent pubs are classic places for celebrities to hang out, being overpriced, aesthetic and lowkey. So I’m not surprised that these two both ended up in Kentish Town on one dark, bitter winter night, and were subsequently spotted by uni students everywhere, swooning over British awkwardness and caring for the poor. Let me marry them both.
“We were at the Assembly House pub in Kentish Town and spotted both Matt Smith and Keir Starmer – not sitting together, although that would’ve been even cooler. It’s pretty mad seeing Doctor Who and the Labour leader both on the piss-up in the same pub, and I even shared the same toilet as Matt Smith. My friend had a chat with him while they were both weeing too.”
Even though on TV you can hear his laugh from a mile away, in real life Jimmy Carr is much more under the radar. I doubt many people even know that he can actually be found walking around North London not making any dark jokes for a few minutes.
He’s a British comedian staple, and for that absolutely has to join the list of London uni favourites. However, seeing him in real life is a different story to his crazy grins and expressions on TV – contrary to popular belief, he’s actually a normal person that gets annoyed about being gawked at.
“I was walking past Foxtons on Parkway in Camden, which is a crazy junction and really cramped pavement. It was a cold yet sunny Autumn afternoon if I recall, and Jimmy Carr and his wife walked straight past me with their baby in a pram – obviously a nightmare in the hustle and bustle. I did a double-take and he looked really pissed off at me.”
What a yearbook. Representing London and Britain itself, these celebs do a great job of telling people to fuck off with their eyes when they’re spotted and being generally miserable, but that’s exactly what we love about them. While they get annoyed, we will continue to mention that one sighting we had for the rest of our time on earth.